Practical Theology | a.k.a. - Loving God

Are Atheists Smarter and Humbler?

In this article over at the Washington Post, Herb Silverman of the Secular Coalition of America writes as a distinguished mathematician and author of his autobiography entitled Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt. He cites a study that reports a lower religiosity among those with a higher intelligence. It was a life-long study of 1500 gifted children (IQ over 135). Let’s discuss a couple issues with the science and Herb’s faulty conclusions and applications.

1. There was a decline in practiced religion in the 20s when the study started.

Wait, what?! Church attendance was growing in the 20s; why would I say that? Though it was culturally acceptable to join and attend a church, compared to population growth and past statistics, church growth was down. It was the actual committed Christians that were few. In 1920, 2700 people signed up for the foreign-mission field. By 1928, that number had fallen to 252. The culture was shallowly religious, and that would have greatly influenced the study participants outside of God’s working. For more info, just look at the online encyclopedia article.

2. There is no additional data about the study’s family or religious history.

The study seemingly ignores any religious influence of the participants’ families and surroundings. Terrible mistake.

3. Faith is the main issue.

Herb moves from intelligence vs religiosity to humility. The issue is faith. Atheism maintains faith as far as it is testable. So anything outside of ourselves that isn’t easily testable isn’t worth believing as definable truth. This concept is illustrated by Richard Dawkins own statement of “There’s probably no God.” Dawkins can’t say with absolute certainty that there is no God because he can’t test or prove/disprove God’s existence. This isn’t humility as Silverman promotes it. It is simply holding to a faith-based position. Silverman presents (or should I say misrepresents) two worldviews in an amazingly biased way. Here is what he writes:

Which of the following sounds more arrogant?

Worldview 1. I know God created the entire universe just for the benefit of humans. He watches me constantly and cares about everything I say and do. I know how He wants me and everyone else to behave and believe. He is perfect and just, which is why we face an eternity of either bliss or torture, depending on whether or not we believe in Him.

Worldview 2. We’re the product of millions of years of evolution. Most species are extinct, as humans will eventually be. I hope to make a positive difference because it’s the right thing to do, not because of future rewards or punishments in an afterlife. When I don’t know something, which is often, I say, “I don’t know.”

His portrayal of Worldview 1 is far from reality and a caricature of the most shallow understanding of Christianity. By the way, Silverman is clearly talking about Christianity because his remarks do not conform to most every religion outside of Christianity. Back on point, Herb’s use of the first person, in contrast to the use of “we” in Worldview 2, is indicative of a bias from the get-go. But the main issue, that I have with this representation is the inconsistency with Biblical truth. The universe, including humans, was created by God for God, His enjoyment not our benefit. And, yes, God cares about His creation. Yes, God has standards and rules. But then again, so does science. God is perfect and just AND gracious. Herb doesn’t mention the humbling fact the man is the cause for all hardships, death, and pain in Worldview 1. He doesn’t mention that the only reason we all aren’t destined for Hell is that God’s son Jesus was tortured and died for reconciliation to even be possible. He doesn’t mention that salvation is a gift from God, not attainable by human obedience or works. We need God – this is the ultimate confession of humility.

Worldview 2 also starts with as clear a truth claim as Worldview 1, but stated differently. Herb could have easily written, “I know that evolution is the reason everything is in existence.” That would be far too arrogant for his purposes. He then adds a statement of humility for the sake of his argument, also without proof of truth. He assumes that evolution will continue beyond humans – a faith-based position. Herb continues by adding a self-righteous statement vowing to do the “right” thing in order to make a positive difference. The main problem here? What standards can be used to define positive or right when a Biblical morality is thrown out the door? Relative standards. Christians are not called to do right to avoid punishment and gain favor. We are called to obey God because that is the right thing to do, because God requires it of us. Lastly, Herb makes a statement about the “I don’t know” factor. I am not sure how this actually comes into play nor what past history in the Bible belt he might saying this to make reference to. I don’t have all the answers, but all the answers that I need to obey and serve God have been given to me in God’s Word.

4. Our culture has a major lack of understanding of the history of the Bible.

Silverman shows his own lack of understanding and knowledge of the Bible’s origins with the rest of his writings of Moses and humility. It was amazingly common for historical authors to write in the 3rd person. And recognizing humility isn’t arrogance. The issue of Moses’ death in the Law is a epilogue most likely added by Joshua. This also was a common practice in writings like Moses’. Though there are some instances of direct dictation, most of the Bible is not a direct dictation like Silverman purports. The correct term and understanding is Plenary Verbal Inspiration.

5. Our main link to God is His Word

Silverman rightly brings concern forth about the leaders who have claimed some special revelation in Christianity’s history. These men and women are dangerous wolves and not of God. They lead away from God. We have been given God’s Word. We are responsible to rightly understand it. We are accountable for our actions according to the Word.

6. Silverman’s article should show Christians that we need to be aware.

We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to the principles of God and His Word. It will get worse, not better. But we are called to stand for the truth of God’s Word regardless of what may happen in this world. As Christians, education should be important. We need to sharpen our minds and reasoning skills to combat pagan unbelief. We are to be waging war against the concepts by spreading the truth of the gospel. Which means that we need to know the Word. We must find our joy in hiding God’s Word in our hearts.

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